How many days in Tokyo do you need? Answer: Not too many.
I didn’t like Tokyo that much. There, I said it. It took me a couple months of hesitation before deciding to write about my feelings, mainly from not wanting to deal with commentary accusing me of racism or not giving the city a chance. I gave Tokyo a big chance. Six days of chances while zipping from Shibuya to Ginza to Shinjuku to Asakusa to Odaiba to Roppongi Hills to Minato to Ueno to you name it. I did not check out any of the cat cafés, maybe that would have changed my perspective. Kidding.
My bigger concern about writing the article was making sure I didn’t deter people from visiting Japan altogether. I didn’t like Tokyo that much but I sure as hell loved the rest of my time in Japan. One of my favorite things about Japan is the cuisine. Read Must Try Japanese Dishes for my list of everything you should eat when visiting.
So How Many Days in Tokyo Do You Need? Probably 2-3 Max
I would allot more time to other cities like Kyoto or those with more naturescapes. Tokyo, of course, has its share of excellent restaurants and cool museums but so do a lot of the other cities in Japan. To me, Tokyo lacked a lot of the elements I find fascinating about Japanese culture: things like tradition, elegant dress, balance and harmony. Maybe If I were living in Tokyo, I would have more time to discover otherwise. But I don’t live there, I’m a visitor and I couldn’t find much to rave about (other than the food) in the full six days I was there.
Here’s Why I Didn’t Like Tokyo
Tokyo did Not Live Up To Its’ Reputation – I know… expectations can be a terrible thing. I remember reading and hearing from so many about how futuristic Tokyo is. But I’m guessing that sentiment lingers from when people visited in the 80s and 90s because Tokyo does not feel futuristic at all except for the awesome bullet train and a talking hologram that was semi functional at the waterfront mall in Odaiba. Where was the super skyline aside from Tokyo Sky Tree Tower (looked pretty normal to me). Where were the kids riding hover boards (didn’t see any) or big holograms popping out of billboards (there were none). I was expecting Back to The Future kinda stuff, it wasn’t here.
Japan, in general, is highly efficient and mostly modern but Tokyo itself is nothing special in this category. In fact, Singapore and Dubai have a much more modern feel.
The Locals looked really unhappy and kinda mean – Sadly its true 🙁 That’s how I felt anyway. I’ve heard that life in Tokyo can be rough due to long working hours, small living spaces and everything being mucho expensive. These dynamics take a toll on the psyche I’m sure. New York ain’t got nothing on Tokyo when it comes to unfriendliness though. No one smiled and people looked generally unhappy. Not to mention, everyone stared at us in Tokyo like they had never seen foreigners. I hadn’t encountered this in a major city before. Maybe we were dressed too “normal” for their liking. The vibe was certainly very different in Kyoto and Nagano… the locals are friendly and helpful there.
The Lights Are A Complete Assault on your senses. I literally had a headache every day once the sun went down. And it wasn’t because of too much sake. Bright neon lights everywhere. There’s no escape. It’s like Times square multiplied by 1000 to the 50th power (remember exponents?) in your face 24/7.
Combine that with millions of unhappy people scurrying around, I just couldn’t handle. Every corner I turned was another row of overly lit up stacks of concrete cubes and flashing signs. Going back to point 1, this did not make Tokyo feel more futuristic but more an ambassador to a shock and awe campaign as well as massive carbon emitter.
I highly suggest filling your days in Tokyo with more zen activities such as visiting parks and the palace gardens in the hopes of achieving some balance. Or take day trips to Mt. Fuji and other sites.
Tech Obsessed in Tokyo The Tech obsession in Tokyo, like the lights, are in your face all the time. Tokyo natives are on their phones everywhere… in restaurants, on the metro, in bars, cafes, walking on the street. You will get bumped on the sidewalk because people pay more attention to their phones than to other pedestrians or cars headed toward them. The idiom Glued to your phone is an understatement in Tokyo.
And what do people do after work to destress? Head to buildings filled with rows of loud arcade machines on every floor and sit in trance like states while chain smoking and gaming.
The irony of it all is that the infrastructure for public wi-fi and hotspots are non existent for visitors. If you need to connect outside of your hotel, get a mobile wifi thingie at the airport (check at airportlist). That mobile wifi does also depend on how many days in Tokyo you do spend. Read Tips for Japan.
The Fashion Am I considered uncool if I don’t like Tokyo’s street style? Oh well. Just because I won’t wear it (you’ll find me in rolled up jeans and sandals a lot of times) doesn’t mean I don’t like it or don’t respect it. But I did not feel that way about most of the street fashion in Tokyo. I wouldn’t wear it and I certainly didn’t like it. Some styles are interesting but most of it looked ridiculously forced, devoid of any harmony and trying too hard to be anti whatever. Some of it felt borderline geared toward attracting pedophile attention. Yuck.
And seriously, whats up with the Harajuku girls? They dress up like characters from Alice in Wonderland and get upset when people take notice? I’m not saying that gives anyone the right to harass you but beware, tourists will probably stare and take out their camera.
Don’t agree with my advice to the question of how many days in Tokyo do you need to spend? Would love to hear your comments below.
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